Fun, fresh, creative Mexican comes to Uptown


There’s a cliché about restaurants (and general contractors) that runs: Fast, cheap, good—pick two. A secondary cliché could be written for Minnesota Mexican restaurants: Good food, good margaritas—pick one. Sure, there are dozens of Mexican spots with decent food and decent margaritas. And yes, yes, certainly there’s an argument to be made that two or three decent margaritas elevate one’s appreciation of anything warm topped with sour cream. But really good ingredient-driven Mexican food, served with just-made sauces; and really good margaritas, made with top-shelf tequilas, house-made sour, and fresh-fruit purées? Until Indio opened, only Masa in downtown Minneapolis could truly claim to do both well.

What’s Indio? It’s the newest and—in the critic’s opinion—the best of the south Minneapolis restaurants owned by chef Hector Ruiz and his wife, Erin Ungerman, the forces behind El Meson and Café Ena. The restaurant just opened in the old Uptown Pizza Nea space and the cooks make good use of the big wood-burning brick oven they inherited. The carne asada, for instance, gets a rich, smoky intensity by wood-fire cooking tequila-marinated skirt steak, the plate further enlivened with chocolaty black beans and plenty of just-made pico de gallo. Put your carne asada next to the must-order guacamole (it’s so fresh it practically dances to the table) and a basket of thick, fried-to-order tortilla chips which taste about as different from store-bought chips as a bakery baguette does from a loaf of Wonder Bread. Add a deluxe margarita or a mojito (made with ingredients like a grapefruit-infused simple syrup) and you’ve got the perfect Uptown date night. Actually, add a movie at the Lagoon to the equation and you’ll be upending another Minneapolis restaurant cliché, namely that the only people who can enjoy that neighborhood these days are happy-hour-fueled college kids. After all, only a sober adult can pick a really great margarita from the sea of lackluster ones.

1221 W. Lake St., Minneapolis, 612-821-9451 »